Mixed bag for apparel retailers and department stores in September; Gap shines

NEW YORK — Apparel retailers and department stores reported monthly revenue results for September that were mixed, as Gap Inc. and Limited Brands posted gains that beat Wall Street estimates, while Macy's and Kohl’s missed expectations.

However, many analysts said spending was fairly strong for the month.

“This should set up to be a good holiday season," said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics LLC, in an Associated Press report. "Consumers needed to take a breather once the back-to-school season is over."

Gap Inc. reported that its September same-store sales increased by 6%, ahead of analysts predictions for a 5.4% increase. By division, Gap North America reported a 5% increase; Banana Republic North America reported a 4% increase; and Old Navy North America reported a 10% increase. International sales were down 3%.

"In September, strong customer response to trend-right product across all brands helped us deliver continued positive performance in North America," said Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO of Gap Inc.

Limited Brands’ same-store sales in September rose 5%, better than the 4.3% forecast by analysts. The chain said net sales for the five weeks ended Sept. 29 fell to $773.6 million, from $818.6 million. Net sales for the five weeks ended Sept. 29 rose to $1.45 billion, from $1.35 billion.

Macy's reported that its September same-store sales rose 2.5%, short of analysts' predictions for 3.3% increase. Online sales (Macys.com and Bloomingdales.com combined) were up 39.0% in September and 35.8% year-to-date in 2012, compared with 2011. (Online sales are included in the same-store sales calculation for Macy's.)

The chain said combined August-September sales rose 3.6% and "were consistent with our positive year-to-date trend," said Terry Lundgren, the company's chairman, president, and CEO. Total sales rose 2.7% to $2.36 billion for the five weeks that ended Sept. 29.

“We continue to feel good about the remainder of our fall season as we begin to ramp up receipts of fresh inventory for the cooler weather ahead,” Lundgren said.

Kohl’s Corp. said its September same-store sales fell 2.7%, bigger than the 0.2% drop analysts had predicted, hurt by lower demand for accessories and women's clothing. Total sales decreased 1.4% to $1.6 billion

In other September results:

  • The Buckle’s sales slipped 0.8%, missing Wall Street's expectations for a 1% increase.

  • Cato Corp. reported a 4% decrease, and said its third-quarter earnings will be at the low end of its guidance.

  • Nordstrom’s sales rose 4.4% in September, below analysts' expectations of a 5% increase. The company said sales suffered in early September because returns increased due to the later start this year of the department store chain's big anniversary-sale event. Nordstrom said stores in the South and Midwest performed best, and the strongest categories were children's wear, handbags and men's shoes.

  •  The BonTon’s sales increased 0.6%. Total sales increased 0.7% to $288.9 million in the current year compared with $286.9 million in the prior year period.